An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

FEMA denies Longboat funding for Irma damages

Longboat Key has sought reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for sand lost during Hurricane Irma

Longboat Key needs more than 60,000 cubic yards of sand to replace what was lost on portions of its beach to erosion last September during Hurricane Irma, a survey of the island’s shoreline shows.

But, because other portions of beach gained sand in the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency this week denied the town’s request for help.

A survey of the town’s beaches, the report of which was completed July 6 by Olsen Associates, a Jacksonville coastal engineering company, showed that the island lost 61,700 cubic yards of sand on four of eight gulf-facing segments when the storm swept up the peninsula the weekend of Sept. 9-10, 2017.

A segment facing Longboat Pass also lost sand but doesn’t qualify for reimbursement.

The same survey found four other gulf-facing segments gained more sand than was lost, adding more than 137,000 cubic yards. The net gain across 10.1 miles of shoreline was about 61,000 cubic yards, the survey found, which swayed the FEMA decision.

Volunteer water quality monitors needed in Lemon Bay

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The health of Lemon Bay is important to us all and each month volunteers monitor the water quality at sites from Alligator Creek in Venice to Bull Bay in Placida to see that it stays that way. On the 1st Monday of each month, trained volunteers travel to one of 16 “fixed” sites (sites already predetermined) to test the water for various parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, etc. This information is collected and stored in a database with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is made available to many organizations and agencies to help maintain good water quality in Lemon Bay. All volunteers are trained and all equipment is provided. Most sites are land-based and no boat is necessary. All that is needed is an interest in our waters and a commitment of 1-2 hours per month.

A training session for those interested in assisting in the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN) will be conducted at Cedar Point Environmental Park on Friday, July 27 at 10.00 am. The park is located at 2300 Placida Road, Englewood. Call (941) 475-0769 for further information.

Newly discovered shark species named for Mote Marine founder Eugenie Clark

Dr. Eugenie Clark was a pioneer in shark biology, known around the world for her illuminating research on shark behavior. She was also a pioneer in another critical way, as one of the first women of prominence in the male-dominated field of marine biology.

Fondly labeled the “Shark Lady,” Clark founded Mote Marine Laboratory and continued studying fishes until she passed away in 2015 at age 92. She will now be recognized with another distinction: namesake of a newly discovered species of dogfish shark.

The species, named Squalus clarkae, also known as Genie’s Dogfish, was identified from the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean. The confirmation of this new species was reported this month in the journal Zootaxa (link to full article").

Save the date for the 2018 Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival

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Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Laishley Park, 200 Laishley Court in Punta Gorda

Please help celebrate the splendor of the natural environment of Southwest Florida by sponsoring, exhibiting, volunteering and promoting the 19th Annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival on Saturday, November 17, 2018. The Festival has become an indispensable showcase of our region's activities and it is a great opportunity to spread your message, advertise your business, demonstrate your accomplishments, build your constituency, and sell your creations.

This community festival is possible because of the generous support of its sponsors. Please consider becoming a financial contributor, all sponsors will be recognized in press releases and on festival sponsor signage. If interested, please contact Jennifer Hecker.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Laishley Park, 120 Laishley Court, Punta Gorda, FL. Set up the day of the Festival begins at 8:00 a.m, to be completed by 9 am. All exhibitors and vendors are required to stay for the entire Festival and break down between 3 - 4 pm. Additional guidance will be sent to those who register through obtaining the appropriate category "ticket" on EventBrite. (Please note that there is no rain date or refunds.) See below for more information about each participant category:

Educational Exhibitor
An educational exhibitor is an organization that does work related to the protection and restoration of the natural environment in the CHNEP area. Educational exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed) There are 40 tickets for educational exhibitors. /p>

Live Animal Exhibitor
A live animal exhibitor is an organization that wishes to bring a live ambassador animal and that does work related to wildlife in the CHNEP area. Educational exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed). The live animal exhibits will be housed in a separate tent this year. There are 10 tickets for live animal exhibitors.

Kids Zone Exhibitors
An Kids Zone exhibitor is an organization in the CHNEP area that would like to offer an environmental educational activity at the festival. Kids Zone exhibitors receive a free covered table space and chair (welcome to bring extra 2-3 folding chairs if needed). The Kids Zone activity tables will be housed in a separate tent this year. There are 10 tickets for Kids Zone exhibitors.

Food vendors
If you would like to register to get one of the coveted and limited food truck spots for the event, please obtain ticket to reserve right away. There are 2 tickets available for savory food, 2 tickets available for desserts and 2 tickets available for drinks/smoothies only vendors for only $25 per vendor available on first come basis.

Nature Art / Native Plant Vendors
Vendors who wish to sell native plants or nature art that represents the wildlife and plants in the CHNEP area will be provided an open lawn space to erect their own 10' x 10' tent, with one table and one chair provided. There are 10 tickets for only $25 available on a first come basis.

Interested in helping to plan, promote of volunteer the day before and day of the event? Can you help promote the festival through a newsletter, website or correspondence? Please email to let us know. If you have further questions or would like to talk with someone about the festival, please contact Suzie Thompson with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (941/575-3390 toll-free 866/835-5785 or email

Thank you for your support of the CHNEP. With your help, we hope to make the 19th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival the best yet!

Sarasota and Charlotte counties teaming up to combat beach erosion

SARASOTA COUNTY — The county has answered a call for help from a neighboring jurisdiction suffering from beach erosion that threatens private property and potentially public infrastructure if nothing is done.

The Sarasota County Commission has agreed to become a co-applicant with Charlotte County on Charlotte applications seeking state money to rebuild disappearing portions of critically eroded shoreline south of Sarasota County along Manasota Key. The move increases the chances Charlotte will receive funds from the state, officials said, adding that Sarasota County would be responsible only for covering costs of renourishing its own beaches on Manasota Key, which suffer from sporadic erosion. The Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved the move at its meeting last week.

“Any time you have multiple jurisdictions or regional type projects, the state likes to see that,” Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines said. “Obviously, this is one natural system, so it would kind of be strange to stop right there at the county line.”

If nothing is done about the area’s disappearing shoreline, the economy could begin to suffer, Hines added.

“A major economic driver here is our beaches and our water, so from that standpoint, we’ve got to protect our beaches,” Hines said.

“Sand war” continues between Siesta Key and Lido Key

SARASOTA – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has recently granted a permit to dredge Big Pass – continuing the four-year battle over sand.

The dredging is part of a Lido Key shoreline re-nourishment project, which aims to replenish 1.6 miles of the Lido Key with sand from Big Pass.

Although the project is backed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city of Sarasota, the plans have provoked considerable opposition from Siesta Key residents.

"It'll be catastrophic not just for Siesta Key but for our ecosystem, our economics,” Siesta Key businessman Michael Holderness said.

Holderness owns Beach Side Villas and has 200 rentals on Siesta Key. He’s also part of Save our Siesta Sands 2 (SOSS2) group. They’re fighting the DEP’s permit to the City of Sarasota — giving it the green light to dredge Big Pass between Siesta and Lido Key.

The permit authorizes the project team to take 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass to place on the central and southern segments of Lido Key — a plan which is expected to cost around $22 million.

Dead sea turtles washing up on area beaches

ENGLEWOOD – The onslaught of red tide on our area is not over yet. Dead sea turtles are now reportedly washing up across southwest Florida.

Cindy Blasa enjoys Englewood Beach for its wildlife and scenic views. But on Thursday night, she saw something she'll likely never forget.

"We came down for sunset and we saw a mound out at the water's edge,” said Blasa.

That "mound" was a dead loggerhead sea turtle that had washed ashore.

"It’s just very sad. We've seen some dead turtles in the past, but never one this big,” she said.

The Coastal Wildlife Club says the loggerhead had no apparent injuries, and it's possible this death could be connected to the recent red tide outbreak.

In the past week and a half, local researchers have seen four dead sea turtles on south Manasota Key, including two critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles.

Recent red tide blooms in the gulf have led to devastating fish kills in the area.

Researchers from Mote Marine Lab say these turtles had no injuries then were likely killed from red tide, but samples must be taken for sure.

Red tide is a natural, toxic algae that forms in the gulf.

“It has a toxin called ‘brevetoxin’ which is released and it can cause fish kills and aquatic life kills,” said Dr. Tracy Fanara with Mote Marine Lab.

Red tide can also cause respiratory issues for beachgoers.

Administrative judge to hear Polk and Manasota regional water dispute

Water war heating up as Polk Regional Water Cooperative argues 50-year permit sought by Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority to double water it can withdraw.

BARTOW — The regional water war continues.

In the coming months, a judge from the state’s Division of Administrative Hearings will listen to the Polk Regional Water Cooperative’s argument that the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority should not be allowed to obtain a 50-year permit that would more than double the amount of water it can withdraw.

On June 25, Chris Tumminia, a lawyer for the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swiftmud), wrote to the chief judge of the Division of Administrative Hearings.

“The District has concerns regarding whether it conclusively appears from the face of the Petitions that the pleadings contain defects that cannot be cured,” Tumminia wrote. “However in an abundance of caution the District requests that you assign this matter to an Administrative Law Judge to conduct all necessary and formal proceedings.”

Ryan Taylor, executive director of the Polk Regional Water Cooperative, and George Lindsey, who represents Polk on the PRWC, said they hope the two sides can reach a compromise before the hearing. A date for the hearing has not been set.

The PRWC represents the county and 15 cities, including Lakeland.

Mote Scientists tag two whale sharks off southwest Florida Coast

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Thanks to whale shark sightings reported by the public off the southwest Florida coast in early June, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory located five of the polka-dotted, filter-feeding giants and tagged two of them with tracking devices on the afternoon of June 14.

All five whale sharks were found offshore of Longboat Key and New Pass, feeding at the surface possibly on fish eggs as well as other forms of plankton.

“It is not uncommon for whale sharks to be spotted feeding in the Gulf this time of year, but the duration of their stay is longer than in previous years,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote. “Reported sightings are usually scattered, but the sharks’ locations have stayed pretty stable, as most sightings have been about 30-40 miles off Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.”

The first shark, a 16-foot-long male nicknamed “Colt,” was tagged around 12:30 p.m., about 40 miles offshore of Sarasota County. As the team was traveling back to shore around 2 p.m., they found and tagged a 22- to 25-foot female nicknamed “Minnie” and photographed her unique spot patterns for later identification. Three more whale sharks were found and photographed in a group closer to shore.

The trip was made possible by Captain Wylie Nagler, owner of Yellowfin Yachts, who transported the research team on his large vessel, allowing them to travel far and fast enough to locate the animals.

The tracking tags will store data about the whale sharks’ location, and the depths and temperatures they encounter.

Will sargassum be the next algae problem in Florida?

The Gulf Coast of Florida is already dealing with two different algae blooms: a red tide on many beaches south of Manatee County and blue-green algae spilling into the Gulf from Lake Okeechobee; but now outbreaks of a larger species of seaweed have even reached Florida. Beginning about seven years ago, beaches throughout the Caribbean Sea have been swamped by feet-thick blooms of Sargassum.

Amy Siuda is an assistant professor of marine science at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and is trying to figure out if this Sargassum is a different species than is commonly found in the Caribbean.

“Sargassum is a brown algae, a type of seaweed, that is common throughout the tropics and temperate region. There are hundreds of species of Sargassum and most are attached to the bottom like normal seaweeds. But there are two species that are known right now — of Sargassum — that live their entire lives not attached to the bottom. So those two species have been associated with the Sargasso Sea out in the center of the North Atlantic [Ocean].”

And oftentimes critters live right among these floating algae.

Red tide still lingering at Sarasota, Manatee County beaches

SARASOTA — Sarasota and Manatee County beachgoers could feel some respiratory irritation from red tide at Lido Beach, South Lido Park, Siesta Key and Turtle Beach, where the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County reported low red tide cell counts. The effects will be more prevalent farther south at Nokomis Beach, North Jetty, Venice Beach, Service Club Park, Venice Fishing Pier, Brohard (dog) Beach, Caspersen Beach and Blind Pass, where red tide levels are high.

High concentrations of red tide and discolored water have also been reported at Manasota Beach.

There were no observed effects at Longboat Key or Bird Key Park, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County says.

The algae is not expected to move much over the next three days, according to the University of South Florida-Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Collarboration for Prediction of Red Tide, which forecasts harmful algal blooms in Florida.

Experts began monitoring the current red tide bloom that has killed thousands of fish, sea turtles, a duck and a manatee in Southwest Florida, beginning last October, according to FWC Research Division spokeswoman Michelle Kerr.

Kerr said sea turtles and manatees are infected by ingesting sea grass blades and shellfish. She said the FWC has documented more than 200 reports through the Fish Kill Hotline.

Mote scientists studying possible remedy for red tide

What if organisms in Sarasota Bay could help tame the effects of red tide? That's what researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory are hoping to find out.

This week, Mote is starting a lab study on whether certain organisms have any effect on Karenia brevis, the organism responsible for toxic algal blooms called red tide. When the naturally-occurring organism gathers in dangerous amounts, it can lead to respiratory irritation in humans and often causes fish kills.

The study will use six ladder-like structures that have had time to accumulate filamentous green algae — the stringy, matted plant that typically is the first to attach to underwater structures — and filter feeders like barnacles, tunicates and oysters in Sarasota Bay.